I was inspired by Miss B to share this "aha" I had the first time I read that people with "executive functions" problems (I have both ADD and bipolar) don't have the ability to think in hierarchies.
When I am talking with my DH, especially when he asks me a question, I have often said "what layer of the cake are you talking about?" What I realized was that while I can see all of the possible answers/meanings/ramifications of his question, I have no clue as to which is the most appropriate one. It is very frustration to both of us.
I am wondering if this is also contributing to my defensiveness.
To try and give an example:
DH: "Did you send DSIL the $180.00 we owe her?" (he had requested that I do this. paying bills is my job)
A normal person would understand that he is asking for information primarily, and reminding me secondarily. Their "hierarchy of meanings" might look like this:
I. DH wants to gather the facts of the situation--appropriate answers are: yes, no, I'm not sure, I'll check.
.....A. If my answer is "no," this query will serve as a reminder to me
..........1. he might be mad that I forgot
..........2. on the other hand, he might not be mad, just wanting to make sure its done
...............a. he might be willing to take on the task, if I don't have time for it
...............b. he might be willing to otherwise support me to get it done
.....B. If my answer is "yes," I have the opportunity to get acknowledged
..........1. he might be confident that I did it, but just wants to confirm
...............a. there may be some reason that I don't know about that makes him want to make sure
...............b. he might have just remembered it himself, and the question just popped out of his mouth
..........2. he might have a nagging doubt, so wants to resolve this
..........3. he might want to thank me, but wants to be sure I did it before doing that
.....C. If my answer is "I don't know," I should check
..........1. he's mad at me for not remembering
..........2. it's been a while, and I never let him know that I did
..........3. his sister would never ask him for payment, so he wants to ask me instead
While as for me, there is no distinction of primary, secondary, or tertiary; meanings. Instead, I have all the meanings, and what I notice is the quantity; the number of meanings that are "flattering" to me, vs. "unflattering." In my brain, the "response-tree" is more like a mud puddle:
he might want to thank me, but wants to be sure I did it before doing that; he might be mad that I forgot; there may be some reason that I don't know about that makes him want to make sure; If my answer is "yes," I have the opportunity to get acknowledged; he might be willing to take on the task, if I don't have time for it; he might be willing to otherwise support me to get it done; DH wants to gather the facts of the situation--appropriate answers are: yes, no, I'm not sure, I'll check; it's been a while, and I never let him know that I did, ET CETERA...
it is NOT automatically obvious to me which of these possible scenarios are the most likely to be relevant; in other words, what I should be responding to. On top of potentially facing several negative judgments on his part, I am also fairly overwhelmed by all of the possible implications. I find myself responding emotionally to ALL of the possible meanings, not the "most likely." And it doesn't feel good to me, so I want to defend myself from this "onslaught" of ickyness.
The problem is, I don't see that all of this "ickyness" is going on in MY head... to me, it looks like it is coming from him. And of course, if I accuse him of this, he will deny it... which then drives me CRAZY, because can't he feel the undercurrents of his communication? WHY WON'T HE OWN THIS! and then, of course, we are off to the races...